I am not sure how I got to the place I was. Do you know what I mean? One day you just wake up and suddenly start asking questions. Why am I here?
One morning I woke up and looked over at the man beside me…and five other faces emerged from his. How did I get to be a woman with five husbands in her history, and what in the world made me wake up beside this one that wasn’t even a husband?
Some of the reasons I can point to and say this is why. I can connect the dots and make the connections—direct cause and effect. Others I have to follow a meandering trail and still can’t quite understand.
I made some poor choices. I don’t blame others for them. They are mine—my burdens. Some things, however, were decided for me.
I am a woman; I had very few options. Very few. Women are not the most valuable commodity where I am from. Ha, it would seem that we rank just a little above the properties or the livestock a man owns. There are times I think the men would rather have the deed or the bull. How often I have been ignored by a husband in public—more than ignored—not even seen.
I wish I could tell you about my life in a manner that would make sense—or at least in a way that would help you not to scorn me, not to whisper about me while you are standing a few feet away. People didn’t know the whole truth, and because they didn’t know all the details they began to fill in their own. Rumors and conjecture and fabrications were mixed with what little they did know.
Honestly, I started questioning what was the truth was and what was a lie.
You hear something so much you start to believe it.
I am not sure I can untangle all the webs.
I do know I felt like a worn out garment with holes that could no longer be mended. Rips and tears that couldn’t be stitched back together to create some kind of whole. And I was worn out from trying. Weary from the attempt to make things right. I think that is why I woke up next to a man who wasn’t my husband. I have had five—and not one of them lasted.
I have been rejected—often tossed aside like a water jar with too big or too many cracks to be useful anymore.
I worshipped God, but so often I felt like I was worshipping someone I did not know. Women had to remain standing far back—barred from participating fully in the worship of God. And even more so for a woman of ill-repute. I wasn’t quite sure if it was my reputation that barred me or if God was pushing me aside.
But there was some part of my heart that just wouldn’t let go. I had heard since I was a little girl that God would send the Messiah, the anointed one, a prophet greater than Moses. I had dreams of this Messiah—perhaps they were just the flighty dreams of a silly, romantic girl. I just knew the Messiah would come and explain everything to us.
He would explain the ways of God and why the Jews despised us. I just knew the Messiah would come and tell us everything. And even as I grew to be a woman, deep in my heart I held tightly to this hope. At times it was very dim. We were a despised race, considered unclean—perhaps because the color of our skin was a shade or hue different from our neighbors, the Jews. Perhaps it was because of our worship site on Mount Gerazim. I am not sure…I just know that the tensions were so great between us that the Jews considered us pagan and wouldn’t even share a cup or water skin with us. They avoided our region as if we were quarantined for leprosy.
I had heard talk that the Jews expected the Messiah too. At least we had that in common. We both wanted a savior to come and save us from the tyranny of our enemies.
So, I kept that hope tucked away like a chrysalis in my heart. Held it close and every once in a while I would look toward Mount Gerazim and whisper a prayer to God to please send the Messiah. I am not sure what this meant for me personally—there was just something inside that made me know that if the Messiah came life would be different.
There was also a deep fear in me. What if we Samaritans were wrong? What if we had been worshipping amiss? What if the temple in Jerusalem was the true place of worship? What if our arrogance and sin had caused us to miss this great salvation? The thought that plagued me even more was what if the reality of my life caused me to be shunned by the Messiah. How in the world could he look at a woman like me and welcome her or even use her in his kingdom?
So, I whispered my prayers—half in hope that they would be heard and answered and half in hope that they would not. I am just not sure I could have dealt with another rejection.
You know about that day. You have heard the talk. You have read the story.
I want you to know I went to the well that day a broken woman, but I left whole.